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Tips for Wild Camping


Wild camping and its variations (free camping and stealth camping) is a really handy skill for independent bike touring.

Wild Camping In Morocco

The reason you need to be able to spot a campsite anywhere is that bicycle travel is unpredictable. You never know how weather, terrain, energy levels, flat tires and other factors will affect your distance for the day. Even if you plan on sticking to populated areas and staying in campsites or hotels, these uncertainties mean you should be prepared if you don’t reach your expected destination.

Camping out will also help you travel on a budget, especially in countries like Canada and Spain, where camping tends to be very expensive – sometimes almost as much as a cheap hotel.

149-Rainbow cycling.jpgFor many people, the thought of wild camping, outside the confines of formal accommodation, is daunting at first. You may worry about the police coming to move you on or trouble in the middle of the night from strangers or animals. These are natural fears and the more you camp out, the more you’ll realise how safe wild camping is.

During our whole trip, we were never troubled by anyone approaching our tent at night, though shepherds in the Middle East often came to invite us home or offer us treats like fresh bread.

No matter where you are in the world, you are very unlikely to be bothered by anyone as long as you are respectful and follow some basic guidelines:

  • Find a spot away from houses and hidden from any roads. You want to be out of sight of passersby. Look on your map for areas marked as woodland, which often offer good camping potential. You may also find that small hills by the side of the road can give you cover if you just haul your bike up to the peak and over the other side.
  • Don’t deliberately trespass. Look for somewhere you can camp without jumping fences or crossing onto marked private property.
  • Don’t camp in dry riverbeds as they can come to life overnight with a little rain. The rain may fall several kilometers away from you but a stream still ends up flooding through your tent! Equally, camping spots near water like a lake or riverbank can be cooler at night than more inland areas.
  • In bear country, cook at least 200 meters away from your tent and string all your food and garbage up in a tree.
  • Don’t start a fire or do anything else that might attract attention, like playing loud music.
  • Leave early the next morning and take all your garbage with you.

19 - Wild camping by Almeria airport.jpgGenerally you will be left alone while wild camping but be prepared for inquisitive visitors, especially in countries like Morocco and Asia. In India, numerous cyclists report waking up to find dozens of people outside their tent or even inquisitive farmers unzipping the tent door to find out who is inside!

If you are stuck trying to find a place to camp, it is always worth asking local people if they know where you could put your tent. Most people are friendly and obliging and you may even get an offer to camp in their back garden or stay the night in their home. Don’t seek out this option unless you are feeling social because chances are you’ll have to talk a lot and will be introduced around the neighbourhood. If you can plan in advance, you may also want to take a look at clubs like Warm Showers, which offer hospitality for cyclists.

111-Cooking Breakfast.jpgSome people have trouble getting used to the idea of wild camping. This was certainly true for Friedel, who hardly slept at all when we first started putting our tent up in the woods. As another cycle tourist said, she could hear an ant fart in the night. If you are like this, just give it time. Start out slowly and build up your confidence. It is worth persisting with, both for the practical sides of wild camping and the beautiful spots you can find.

If you would like to read more about wild camping, try looking at these excellent thoughts by other cycle tourists:

Ken Kiefer * Mark & Juliette * Allan E. Stokell

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24 Responses to “Tips for Wild Camping”

  1. Stealth camping should not be confused with wild camping, gypsy camping or ninja camping. Please visit my website.

  2. aok says:

    Thanks! Great article.

  3. warren beasley says:

    Wild camping is perfectly legal throughout Scotland (enshrined in Scots law). there are fewer more beautiful places than camping beside a loch with the mountains surrounding you.
    There are however responsibilities. check out “visit Scotland”, the national tourist site.

  4. Thanks a ton for this article! Very helpful in my preparation for my first big cycling tour this summer!

  5. Paul says:

    Like many, I had little sleep the first few times I tried wild camping, but the nervousness soon dissipates and you very quickly acquire an ‘eye’ for a perfect camp spot. Occasionally, you may get moved on or find yourself in the middle of a rave but they are few and far between and the joy of waking up to a sunrise in a remote wilderness with only the sound of the birds singing is one to be treasured.

    cycletothesea.blogspot.com

    • Sharon Smith says:

      Hiya Paul

      I was wondering if you could recommend any wild camping spots in and around mid-Wales near Dolgellau?

      Cheers
      Sharon

      • Paul says:

        Hi Sharon, I’ve never actually cycled in Wales
        so I couldn’t say for sure. However, the great
        thing about wild camping is that you don’t really
        need to plan ahead. Wales is full of wilderness,
        mountains and farms. What I’d advise to begin with
        is to try and ascertain whether a particularly
        nice camp spot may be owned by anybody who lives
        nearby and then simply knock on the door and ask
        permission. If there are no houses within sight, then
        just find a private spot away from the road and tracks
        where you’re unlikely to be disturbed and pitch a tent.
        The worst that can happen is someone will turn up in
        a 4×4 and ask you to move on, but I’ve never had that
        happen to me yet.

  6. Sharon Smith says:

    Do you know of any wild camping spots in mid-wales please? Near Dolgellau.

    Cheers
    Sharon

  7. Sharon Smith says:

    Thanks for your comments Paul. I may just do that.

    Sharon

  8. Bob says:

    What do you do for amenities? On none of the photos that I have seen of loaded bikes are there any shovels (like a fold up one) that would allow you to dig a hole.

    So what are your recommendations when you need to go and it isn’t feasible to make it to some shops or other facilities?

    • My site shows my bike with a small plastic orange shovel used to make ‘cat holes’. These holes should be deep enough to fully contain the waste and well covered over again to prevent animals from finding them. All the usual stuff and well away from water supplies. You can get more info from the Leave No Trace sites.

      I wish everyone followed these rules, some places in Germany and Italy are littered with dung piles with TP on top.

      Disgusting!

    • friedel says:

      In addition to Allan’s tip, we try to avoid TP use altogether. A little water does the trick just as well. If we do use TP, we carry it out to the nearest garbage can.

    • Brimstone says:

      Going Abroad: The Bathroom Survival Guide by Eva Newman

      I don’t like the ubiquitous plastic trowel for catholes. They don’t cut it in hard ground and they seem to dull quickly. try a Mont-Bell “Handy Scoop” which is like an indestructible large stainless steel spoon and weighs 1.3 oz,a “snow stake” wide aluminum tent stake from REI etc., or a “QiWiz Big dig” which is a hand-made titanium trowel that weighs a half an ounce.

  9. In England and Wales due to its welcoming rules on wild camping, Dartmoor is a safe bet, and free from the threat of angry farmers. Aim for the southern bits, well out of range of the army firing ranges in the north. In the Lake District, the shores of remote Styhead tarn are a popular wild camping spots, and provide a great base for climbing Scafell Pike or Great Gable. Also recommends a couple of spots in the Brecon.
    http://www.social-camper.com/wild-camping

  10. Great write up. Thank you! Also it is great to hear that wild camping in Great Britain is allowed.

    ron & petra
    holiday, fl, usa

  11. Zeljko says:

    Hi everyone

    Has anyone been in Spain i what about wild camping there?

    Thanx

    • Lesl and Loz says:

      We are just back from a month in Northern Spain and French Pyrenees. On a 750 motorbike, most of which we did wild camping. The people are friendly and seem to let you get on with it. We have a green tent and bike cover and camped low profile. Drinking water was readily available in nearly all villages. A fab time and less than £900 for both of us all in.

  12. Tracy says:

    Hey I was just wondering – if you do any cooking at your wild camping spot… how do you deal with doing the dishes if there is no running water?

    • friedel says:

      You take extra water along or eat something that doesn’t require any clean-up (a tapas-style meal for example with olives, cheese, bread).

  13. john says:

    I rode my first tour with no itinerary 2010-2011 spanning 13 western U.S. states and over 6500 miles. I slept on quite a few picnic tables, rest areas, remote fields and other odd places. I recieved a tip from a police officer that was very handy. “If possible ask first, If there is a posted trespass sign you can be subject to arrest, if there is no sign the most an officer can do is ask you to leave”. Most property outside city limits is fair game. Some states allow you to overnight in rest areas, and most small towns in the midwest on the old highway system will allow you to sleep in the park. This was common practice at the start of auto travel in the U.S. My favorite was a covered picnic table, I didn’t have to pitch my tent, a restroom was usually close, elevated off the ground = less encounter with biting bugs or hungry animals and I was less visiable.

  14. Tom says:

    I’m trying to plan an end to end cycling trip through Italy and could do with some up to date info on wild/stealth camping. Last time i cycled in Italy i did find it quite hard to wild camp, but my route was pretty bad and i was trying to get from Aosta to Ancona as fast as possible.

  15. Damien says:

    Hey!

    A really interesting article on wild camping. I have mentioned in my blog as i believe my readers will find it very useful. I have also put a link to your page.

    Thanks again :-)

    You now have a new follower

  16. Steve says:

    Hi guys,

    We are doing a 3 week tour from Verona in Italy, heading north initially then west towards the Ecrins national park in France crossing through many of the Lake regions of Northern Italy. Does anyone know how strict the rules are on wild camping or bivvying in Italy? We are a group of 6 and would be cycling until late evening and leaving early morning so wouldnt be disturbing anyone?

    Cheers,

    Steve

  17. Carl Johnston says:

    Did Cairns to Newcastle Australia. Camp in mown areas, around crops and next to railway lines that are mown to prevent fires spreading and allow access to vehicles. Reduces anxiety about snakes. Most pub owners outback will let you camp out back and shower if you buy a meal and have a couple of beers. Buy Camp 6, or subscribe to online version which will give you every campsite/rest area in Australia from free to a max of twenty dollars. Every town in Australia has a show ground which usually have showers and utilised by people trailering horses, and will accommodate cyclists. Only buy a green bullet proof tent to master the art of covert cycling and will become confident enough to camp in the grounds of the local court house( did it twice). Look for superseded roads and railways.

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